The Korea Herald


Plush bag charms in high demand among young Korean women

Accessorizing bags with fluffy doll "key rings" is fashion fad spread by celebrities, adored by young adults

By No Kyung-min

Published : Oct. 31, 2023 - 16:26

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Monamhee's Monamhee's "Beulpingi" bag charm (Courtesy of Monamhee's official website)

It may seem somewhat ironic to call a fluffy doll ornament adorning a handbag a "key ring," as it seemingly serves no practical purpose and has no keys attached.

Instead, it's all about the aesthetic for many young Koreans, who embellish their bags with these key rings, also known as bag charms.

"I visited a cafe in Seoul's Yeonnam-dong with my friends and decided to get this fleecy bear for my bag," university student Park Ji-soo said after buying a white bear bag charm.

"I wasn't aware that this was a fad in South Korea, but I've noticed a surge in stores selling a wide range of bag charms these days."

More and more shops are stocking a variety of bag accessories, cashing in on the desires of collectors like Park.

Blackpink's Jisoo with her Jellycat rabbit bag charm (Courtesy of Jisoo's Instagram) Blackpink's Jisoo with her Jellycat rabbit bag charm (Courtesy of Jisoo's Instagram)

Celebrity influence

According to data compiled by Daehaknaeil Research Laboratory for the Twenties over the past four years, "key ring" has emerged as the most frequently searched keyword among 1,000 consumer goods on social media platforms this year.

This represents a significant shift, as "key ring" has overtaken "photo card," which had held the top spot for the past two years, with "key ring" ranking third.

The widespread craving for cute bag charms in South Korea can be partially attributed to the influence of celebrities who display fluffy additions to their bags on social media.

Celebrities such as Jisoo of K-pop sensation Blackpink have sparked frenzied demand for animal bag charms from British soft toy company Jellycat.

This trend extends to other celebrities, such as K-pop girl groups New Jeans, Red Velvet and aespa, along with numerous social media influencers, spurring the demand for bag charms from brands at home and abroad.

Likewise, Korean actress Cha Jung-won has significantly boosted the popularity of grocery store Monamhee's doll bag charm, named "Beulpingi" after Blackpink's nickname.

As of October this year, Monamhee's bag charms Beulpingi and Brown are being resold on online platform Kream at more than double their original price, and all of Monamhee’s Kream-exclusive releases have quickly sold out.

In the same month, Monamhee also unveiled a limited edition collaboration with Levi's jeans. The release triggered a rush of interest, with some even making a profit by reselling them online.

However, the phenomenon is not limited to celebrity endorsements, as it has transformed into a full-fledged accessory trend. Celebrities' social media posts featuring charmed handbags have turned looks of dangling dolls on bags into the latest fashion trend in the nation.

According to Choi Seul-bee, who works at Onemorebag, a general store offering goods from both local and foreign brands in Seoul's trendy neighborhood of Seochon, Jongno-gu, sales of keychains and handbag charms have surged, even though the shop does not stock charms by well-known brands like Monamhee.

"More than 90 percent of consumers purchasing bag charms are women in their 20s,” Choi said. “I believe celebrities have a profound influence on people's pursuit of adorable doll handbag accessories."

Lee Eun-hee, a professor of consumer studies at Inha University, pointed out that young consumers, who are often particularly conscious of their appearance, tend to be swayed by influential trendsetters.

“They exhibit a desire to follow the trends set by their favorite celebrities and relish being a part of the fashionable wave,” she said.

Monamhee's bag charms and character clothes are advertised on the online platform Kream. (Courtesy of Kream) Monamhee's bag charms and character clothes are advertised on the online platform Kream. (Courtesy of Kream)

Small indulgence for personal expression

For people like Lee, an office worker in her 20s living in Seoul, bag charms have become essential fashion accessories, with their designs adding a stylish touch to her daily outfits.

“I have a broader range of options for accessorizing my bags with key rings, even though I own fewer of them,” Lee shared. "They are affordable fashion items that enhance my style, adorning not just my bags but my other accessories like headphones.”

"My friend bought a similar one after finding my dangling accessory adorable," she added.

Plush key chains typically cost 10,000 to 50,000 won ($7.45 to $37.30), depending on the material and brand.

Park, too, likes the sense of indulgence that comes from collecting small bag accessories that reflect her personal taste.

"As someone who doesn't invest heavily in clothing, these accessories allow me to express my character through their unique looks," Park said. "Moreover, I love that I can customize key rings and bag charms to match my taste."

Indeed, with the growing trend, derivative products tailored for particular doll bag charms themselves, including clothing, necklaces and hairpins, have begun appearing on online marketplaces.

One customer review on e-commerce platform Naver Shopping reads, "I purchased a scarf for my Gromit doll key ring, which was still in an inflatable swimming tube, in preparation for the chilly winter season."

In this regard, professor Lee shed light on the emotional connections that owners feel toward bag charms, which further deepen their affection for these accessories.

"Beyond their utility as fashion items, these charms often hold a strong emotional significance," she explained. "Bag charms are not only cost-effective means of expressing one's style and taste but also offer emotional comfort through their presence."

A variety of bag charms at Onemorebag in Seoul's Jongno-gu (No Kyung-min/The Korea Herald) A variety of bag charms at Onemorebag in Seoul's Jongno-gu (No Kyung-min/The Korea Herald)